FTC Debt Collection Agency Enforcement Actions Set Record

By: Ted Knutson, ACA International

The Federal Trade Commission set an annual record for its enforcement actions against debt collection agencies in 2015.

The number rose to 18 from 15 in 2014, according to a report the regulator released Wednesday. Last year, the FTC also began publishing a continuously updated list of all companies and individuals it has permanently banned from the debt collection industry for serious and repeated abusive practices.

The number of bans dropped to 30 in 2015 from 47 the year before while fines shrunk to $94 million from $140 million. An FTC spokesperson attributed both declines to 2014’s largest single debt collection enforcement action in FTC history, which resulted in a fine of $90.5 million.

In 2015, the regulator took four actions against companies that tried to collect money on debts that did not exist — so-called “phantom debt collectors” — up from three actions the previous year. The number of page views of the FTC’s website climbed in the year by nearly 25 percent to 102 million from 81.7 million.

The FTC shares responsibility for consumer financial regulation and enforcement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.